New data shows that staff employed to deliver one of the Government's landmark mental health promises are delivering fewer than two sessions a day on average.
In Budget 2019, the Government's landmark $1.9 billion mental health investment was meant to help fund a "new universal frontline mental health service" for people with mild to moderate mental health and addiction needs - among other large mental health investments.
The Government said the scheme, dubbed the Access and Choice programme, would serve 325,000 people by 2023/24.
Data released in parliamentary questions to National's mental health spokesman Matt Doocey show that in May, the Government had 546.8 fulltime equivalent staff employed to deliver the programme, who delivered just 20,276 sessions that month.
This means each staffer delivered the equivalent of 1.8 sessions each working day.
Doocey said the numbers were outrageous.
"It's outrageous to learn at a time when we know there is huge demand on our mental health services that Labour's flagship frontline mental health service is only seeing 2 people a day per worker," Doocey said.
"I'm hearing feedback from the sector that these workers are being asked to perform non-mental health tasks which would make sense as to why so few mental health patients are being seen," he said.
Health Minister Andrew Little disputed the figures, saying measuring the health service by sessions delivered per staffer was "not a meaningful measure of the Access and Choice programme and is therefore not recorded by the Ministry of Health".
He said the numbers "relate to the contracts that MoH has with providers," noting that not all providers have their full workforce as they are still in "stages of development and many of the services are still recruiting".
Despite those low numbers, a recent review of mental health said it was on track to hit its targets.
The scheme was reviewed by the Government's Implementation Unit as part of a review into a suite of delivery issues across its mental health package. That review found the scheme was on track to reach 325,000 people by 2023/24, across its four prongs.
The unit showed that while it was on track to reach that target in terms of reaching people in the general population and youth, there was still work to be done to reach Māori and Pacific peoples.
About 84,000 people were accessing general services, which was on track to reach a goal of 185,000 goal in 2023/24.
Success for Māori services was patchier. Seven services were operating in seven DHBs, but only 43 per cent of contracted staff had been hired.
In terms of services for Pacific peoples, nine services were up and running in seven DHB areas; but only 53 per cent of contracted staff had been hired.
Doocey said the Government's decision to target 185,000 services in the general population walked away from the 325,000 target that was initially announced.
Little said the 325,000 target was always broken down to four streams: "Integrated Primary Mental Health and Addiction Services" and services for Māori, Pacific peoples and youth - which collectively will reach 325,000 people.
"There are four work streams that make up the Access and Choice programme: Māori, Pacific, Youth and Integrated Primary Mental Health and Addiction Services. The data presented here only relates to one of them: Integrated Primary Mental Health and Addiction Services," Little said.
"The Government is absolutely on track to deliver on the 23/24 target of 325,000 people accessing the new primary mental health and addiction services per annum (across all four work streams)," he said.
But Doocey said that the 185,000 equated to a cut of 40 per cent to the original 325,000 target.
"Labour's flagship frontline mental health service that was announced to much fanfare over two years ago is quickly becoming emblematic of this Government's wider failure to deliver in mental health.
"Not long after the Government awarded itself an A+ for mental health, saying that their programmes were on track, we now learn the Government has quietly rolled back its own target for people seen in GP practices by around 40 per cent. This is a Government that talks on both sides of its mouth on mental health saying one thing in public and another behind closed doors," he said.